There are two words that truly define the essence of Italian Carnevale : the first is maschera , or mask; the second is — of course — Venezia. While...
How many Italians, once they moved to the US, spend lot of their time to find the best mozzarella, prosciutto, or pasta? Probably, the concern belongs to all people who are eager to keep a legacy with the Bel Paese through food. That’s one of the thoughts that pushed Raffaele Asquer to start an innovative platform, called Foodiamo. “One night - he told us - my Turkish girlfriend, who's now my wife, brought home this new burrata from a store. I tried it and it was great, and it was a very good deal too!” That’s when Raffaele thought that he would definitely follow a website with recommendations on the best Italian food and started thinking of do it himself. Foodiamo is a guide for people to find the best, authentic Italian food in the place where they live, or where they go on vacation. It connects with restaurants, producers, and stores that they may like and may have a chance to visit, or buy from.
Can you tell us the story behind Foodiamo?
I've always been passionate about Italian food, and very curious about regional food specialties. I am originally from Varese, Northern Italy, and, when I moved to Pisa for college, I discovered the Tuscan cuisine. I would drag my friends on “culinary trips” to try this or that restaurant, or this or that local specialty. Other times, I would just ride my scooter to some dairy farm, come back, and invite my friends over to my dorm room to have some pecorino cheese and a glass of wine. When I moved to Los Angeles, I was afraid I would leave all that amazing food behind. But I discovered that in all cities in the US you can find many authentic Italian products, some even hard to find in Italy, and that lots of non-Italian people are very knowledgeable and passionate about Italian cuisine.
The website covers different cities and places. How do you pick them?
I want all Italian food lover to find what they like and to explore the world of Italian gastronomy, no matter where in the world they happen to be. Because we've just started, the website is focused on Los Angeles, but we have covered places and events on the West Coast (Portland, San Francisco, Palm Springs). Soon we'll cover New York. I pick restaurants through Italian friends' recommendations, or my own experiences. I read lot of other reviews, specialized press etc., so I get many ideas, and then I go try myself. The same goes for groceries: I test them before deciding to cover them. For wine, in our weekly “Vino Vino Situation” series, a wine expert in Italy selects an Italian wine available in the US. Very soon, we will have “tasting panels” for specific products. In the first one, for example, I will have Italians tasting several brands of panettone available in the stores.
Do you think the Italians’ legacy is still intact, although they have been living in the US for a while now?
Indeed is: unlike with previous generations of immigrants, there's a strong incentive to keep that legacy alive. Italians living abroad became more aware of what's good about their country and develop a certain “pride” of being Italian. Of course living abroad makes you aware of the problems of the Italian society and politics.
Why is it important to promote Italian food in an alternative way, beyond nonna's recipes?
The demand for high-quality Italian products is growing around the world, not just in the US. Consumers are willing to pay more to get better products, healthier, safer, more nutritious, made -as much as possible- in the “old fashioned way” on a small scale, by people rather than machines. And when they go to restaurants, they increasingly demand such products to be used as ingredients. Italy is in a privileged position to offer all of that to the world. As a matter of fact, it is already doing that. But, as people spend most of their time online, and increasingly use the internet to make choices, I wanted to created an online resource, reliable and fun, that would connect them with what they look for. Recipes are important, in fact we want to include them too, but your dishes will stand out only with the best ingredients. Foodiamo will help you find them.
What makes your project different from any other website that talks about Italian food?
As Italians, we are 100% committed to find the absolute best for our public because we love this stuff, we keep talking about it, and, as I've experienced many times, we're very picky about our mozzarella, salumi, espresso etc. For example, we have a video series called “Real Italians, Real Pizza”, where we go around test pizzerias. There's a lot of Italian restaurants out there. Some are so-so, some are excellent. Some of the imported groceries are quite expensive...so are they worth it? I believe that, by having Italians be the judge, I am setting the bar pretty high.